Category: General

Preparing your files for commercial printing

A guide to preparing your files for commercial printing

A guide to preparing your files for commercial printing

A guide to examine ways to prepare files for print, covering applications in the Adobe Creative Suite. The examples used are for InDesign, but can apply to Photoshop and Illustrator.

This is a basic guide aimed to help people just starting out in the print design business or are looking to learn more about preparing files better to send to press.

In my experience, designers with a background (or at least a deep understanding of what it takes to output files commercially) are better at their job because the results of their design more closely match their expectations.

Fonts used in popular logos

Logo fonts

Do you find yourself staring at other designer’s logo and immediately try to decipher what typeface they are using? Click the image to find out who's using what fonts in their logo.

Smart typography tips

typography rules

A few typography rules to make your design more professional

There are plenty of sites that can help you with grammar and typography – Grammar Girl comes to mind. Here are a few tips that can make your next printed piece more professional.

  • USING ALL CAPS ONLY DRAWS ATTENTION TO YOUR AMATEUR UNDERSTANDING OF DESIGN.
  • Bold, italics, underlined, or otherwise highlighted text should be used sparingly. You use these techniques to draw attention to specific text. If you overuse it, you accomplish just the opposite.
  • Fully justified text boxes are not only more difficult to read, but they tend to leave you with unsightly gaps throughout your text.
  • Periods and commas belong “inside the quotes, not outside them.”
  • Headlines don’t have to be the thickest bold typestyle you have available. Consider making your headlines a thin typestyle, and just a few points larger instead.
  • Placing two spaces at the end of a sentence went out with the typewriter. Just don’t do it.
  • Make every effort to use black or relatively solid color body copy. When you use a four-color body copy at sizes smaller than 12-14 points, it’s quite difficult to register on the printing press.
  • Proper grammar requires you to not indent the first paragraph, but all the following ones instead. That being said, indenting paragraphs is another rule that mostly died with the typewriter. Newspapers still do it, but consider that they’re using a small text size and trying to cram as much on a page as possible, so they use the tightest leading possible, and little to no space between paragraphs.
  • Scaling type horizontally or vertically looks horrible. You’re much better off finding an extended or tall typestyle instead.
  • Widows tell the intelligent reader that you just don’t care. Adjust the kerning, line breaks, or the content of the text itself to avoid having only one or two words at the end of a paragraph whenever possible.
  • Along with paragraph widows, having your first column of text spill over into a second column (or the next page) with only one sentence (orphans) just looks bad.
  • When indenting bullet lists, make sure that the second line of text is indented to line up with the first letter of the bullet, not the bullet itself. You can do this by hitting Command + \ just before the first letter of text after a bullet point.
  • For the love of God, kern any headlines or large text blocks. It’s easy to hide the bad kerning of a font in body text, but uneven gaps in headlines looks horrible. It’s especially noticeable in any text used in a logo. Take the few extra seconds to clean it up.

In the first paragraph I mentioned print design. It’s quite difficult, if not impossible, to stick to these rules when working in HTML. Society pretty much accepts a lot more on a web page than they do in print when it comes to typography.

Countdown to IE6 extinction: Even Microsoft wants it!

Microsoft is behind the IE6 countdown site, which endeavors to let the world know just how many (or few, as the case is) IE6 users are still out there – which currently stands at a mere 12 percent of the web browsing population.

IE6 use worldwide

IE6 users account for less than 3 percent of U.S. browsers

As a web designer or developer, you’re probably sick and tired of working around the fact that your company wants IE6 compatibility with their website. But my question to you is, WHY do you continue to do it?

Unless your primary audience lives in China (34.5 percent) or South Korea (24.8 percent), you have little reason to care about IE6 users – which are probably people who don’t care about your site to begin with. In fact, half of that 12 percent can probably be attributed to servers or computers not actively used by humans.

Here in the U.S., less than 3 percent of the web browsing population uses IE6, and you can safely assume that those people probably are on dial-up connections, or do little surfing to begin with. After all, wouldn’t you grow tired of seeing all the “sorry, this doohicky site won’t work with IE6” error messages and just click that upgrade button eventually if you had a nice speedy cable connection? There’s most likely a reason they aren’t upgrading.

Just stop worrying about IE6 users and move on. The web browsing public is much more savvy today than they were just a few years ago. If they’re truly interested in your site, they WILL upgrade their browser.

To help encourage browser upgrades, the IE6 Countdown site even offers a simple HTML code you can place in the header of your HTML that pops up a banner encouraging an IE6 visitor to upgrade.

Best and worst logo redesigns of 2010

Best & worst logo redesigns of 2010

The NBA Golden State Warriors takes the prize for worst, in my opinion

I’m not sure how I missed the annual Best/Worst Of post at BrandNew, but it’s always worth checking out. This year’s crop of corporate brand redesigns has me baffled. Some of the logos listed in the Worst category I found to be pretty decent – such as the Super Bowl XLV logo. On the other hand, a few listed in the Best category couldn’t be worse, in my opinion – like the MySpace logo.

13 Reasons why software is not free: My somewhat (but not really) sympathetic long-winded response

Mac App StoreI recently came across Wild Chocolate which featured an article titled 13 Reasons why software is not free. After reading the author’s commentary regarding the pricing of Mac OS applications, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing at the same time.

Let me start by saying that when discussing topics like this, I almost always side with the developer. In the article in question, the author is (I’m guessing) addressing the trend of app pricing falling lower and lower and still fighting the opinion by vocal users that the software should be cheaper or free. This is nothing new. Adobe has been battling this issue for years, so has Apple, Microsoft, and numerous other software developers.

While I understand completely where the author is coming from, I also felt like it came across as whining and making excuses.

Here are my specific thoughts/responses to some of the author’s points:

1. The majority of software is made by small software shops, usually less than a dozen people. They specialize in creating software and do not have billions in other revenue streams to fall back on.

I sympathize, I really do. But how is this my fault or problem? Few companies have billions in revenue and still manage to put out a quality, affordable product. YOUR financial situation is not MY problem, and neither is the quantity of people it takes to develop your product.

2. Software is not easy to create — especially not software that people consider easy to use and attractive. It’s a whole heck of a lot of work, in fact.

Welcome to adulthood and the common workplace. Nothing I do at work is easy, especially producing a quality product. But I have no control over what people perceive is the value of the product I produce. The market dictates the price – no matter how hard I work or how great the work is.

4. Software is created by hard working people… like you. Do you get paid for your work?

Yes, I do get paid. But as I stated above, the market dictates the value of my work. I found the above statement to be completely lame and pointless.

5. People who make software have more to do once your purchase has been made. We are here for you when you run into issues by providing a support team to answer questions, walk you through troubleshooting steps, fix bugs, etc.

Make a product so easy to use that we don’t have to ask questions. Perhaps your help files (if you bothered to create comprehensive ones) need some work. Bug fixes? Fix your bugs before you release to the masses. This is a tough one. I get the developer’s perspective on this one, and quite frankly I get quite annoyed at people that complain who don’t bother to try a little harder to understand the application they just paid for and are using. They appear to expect every app to work the way THEY want it to work.

6. Software teams are constantly working on improving and updating the software to keep up with changing technologies. It’s a continuous process.

Only if you want to continue making money on it. You could do like so many small developers who release a product, make money, then move on to other projects and never touch the original application again. They ruin their reputation by violating the trust of their customers, of course. But let’s not pretend that improving your product is mandatory and without reward.

8. It costs money to put out a software product. We have to spend years creating it, paying people’s salaries, renting office space, purchasing computers, etc. If we want you to actually find out about our product, we often need to spend money to advertise as well.

Business 101: Cost of doing business. As far as the advertising goes, in modern times you often don’t have to advertise if you build a great product. You send out some press releases and some review licenses to key websites in your market and they do the work for you.

12. Without software, your fancy laptop or iPad would be… well… pretty darn useless.

Without our fancy laptops and iPads, your software would be absolutely useless.

The bottom line:

Visit the original article and decide for yourself whether or not you sympathize with the developer or the end-user.

As for me, the bottom line is complex. On the one hand, I’ve grown tired of the latest generation of Mac users who expect software to be perfect, free, and custom built just for them. Nothing annoys me like a comment on a MacUpdate software listing like “fix these bugs/lack of feature I want and I’ll pay for it,” or the only slightly more annoying “I’m removing your app from my Dock until you add XYZ feature.”

Developers work hard (well, most of them do) on their applications, and they’re made for a specific audience. For some users, the features in any particular app are worth every penny the developer asks for. Oddly enough, people seem to complain more about cheap apps than they do with more pricey ones. There’s a sense of entitlement that some users picked up somewhere and insist on publicly complaining whenever they get a chance.

On the other hand, developers have found themselves in this tough spot of producing a quality app and having to sell it cheap or give it away by their own doing. It’s not the fault of the user that your competitor makes a similar app that’s almost as good as yours, but at half the price – or even 99 cents. Your costs are your problem, not mine. As the user, I get to decide if the price of your application is appropriate for what it does and how it makes my life better.

I use several Adobe Creative Suite applications for my work. It’s an expensive collection of applications. Heck, it’s a lot more than I care to pay. But for what I do, there’s nothing better and I generally recoup the costs in no time. It’s a cost of doing business for me. Adobe prices these applications for people like me – people who find the value in them.

As soon as a developer makes an app that’s 75% to 80% as good as Adobe InDesign, I’ll consider switching. When Pixelmator does enough of what I need it to do, I’ll be happy to consider it over Photoshop; but it currently doesn’t, and so for me the price is simply not worth it. In that respect, I set the value of Pixelmator, and it doesn’t really matter how much time, effort and money they spent developing it. And let me just say that I think Pixelmator is an awesome application – worth every penny if you don’t need the power of Photoshop like I do.

Ultimately, I think many developers try to do too much with their app. Possibly in an effort to up the perceived value. Make an app you can code in a month that addresses a popular need and sell it for 99 cents. Or make a more complex app and sell it for $39 and sell a lot less copies. Either way, it’s up to the user to decide which to buy, and complaining about it isn’t going to change anything.

One thing is for sure, if you come up with a revolutionary app, or one that is so far above the competitors, people will happily pay for it.

Facebook invades your privacy again: Now giving out your home address

This past Friday night, Facebook pushed out a new update to the service which allows any developer to gain access to your contact info, including home address and cell phone number. They announced this after business hours, most likely so the vast majority of tech-savvy media outlets were home for the weekend.

Facebook ignoring your privacy concerns

Facebook pulls a fast one on users: gives away even more of your private information

I never entered my home address or phone number in my Facebook profile, but if you did, I would recommend you delete the info now before developers intent on spamming your phone and home mail box get a hold of it.

In Facebook’s defense, they DO ask you when an app requests this info. But Facebook also knows darn well that the average user isn’t going to understand what it means or how to deal with it. The fact that they announced this on their developer blog late on a Friday night just goes to show you that they know it’s sneaky and you probably wouldn’t agree to it if they put it right on your profile page as an announcement.

The intent of this is feature, I’m sure, is to allow you to log-in to other sites using your Facebook account and when you purchase something, you won’t have to enter that private information manually. But I don’t buy it. Not only does every browser on the market already have a basic auto-fill function, but there are numerous extensions and plugins that also accomplish this – such as 1Password.

Hey Apple, give me what I want (cause surely the whole world wants it to)

Mac OS X FinderI often see comments on Mac OS X feature-related articles from users who feel that Apple should include this or that feature. No matter how obscure the feature request is, they’re convinced that the whole world could use it.

I normally ignore such fluff, but this past week I managed to come up with a list of a few things that I think Apple should build-in to Mac OS X to make me happy. Because you know if I want it, chances are that everyone else on the planet does too, right?

Mac OS X admin password

Mac OS X doesn't trust me!

For starters Apple, since I’m smarter than your average rock and managed to set up my Mac’s user account with administrative privileges, can you please stop asking me for my God-foresaken password every time I want to install something? Please! I get it, security and all that. But I’ve set myself up as an admin user for a reason. Can you at least offer the option of not asking me for a password? I know, enabling that feature will require me to enter my password, but that’s ok this one time!

Wait Apple, don’t run off just yet, I’ve got more. (more…)

Adobe shipping Acrobat X Pro with new and improved features

AcrobatAdobe Acrobat X Pro, its powerful document collaboration tool for creative professionals who need to take their work to the next level. Acrobat X Pro allows users to deliver polished communications using PDF Portfolios, and work together effectively with shared document reviews. Users can also simplify workflows with integrated online services for storing and sending documents, and ensure designs will print accurately with advanced print production tools.

Adobe has added a host of new features with Acrobat X Pro, including:

  • The Action Wizard helps users automate and standardize multi-step tasks for maximum productivity.
  • New customization options for PDF Portfolios enable designers to create and share custom layouts and themes and develop PDF Portfolios with consistent branding and presentation.
  • Tight integration with online services at Acrobat.com allows users to share large files online and streamline collaboration.
  • Improvements made to the Preflight tool and printing options enable creative and print professionals to process jobs quickly and accurately.
  • Acrobat X Pro also supports the latest versions of the PDF/X-4 and X-5 standards, enabling users to stay current with industry standards.
  • Users can speed up everyday work by customizing the Quick Tools area for fast access to the tools they use the most.

Additionally, Adobe has added two new cloud services – Adobe SendNow and Adobe CreatePDF – that will improve document exchange and enable easy PDF creation.

Customers who previously purchased Acrobat 9, 8 or 7 (either Standard or Pro) and have a serial number can upgrade to Acrobat X Pro for $199.

I don’t have a copy yet, so I can’t say if Acrobat X Pro is worth the price of upgrade, but I do know that Adobe is putting a lot of engineering and R&D into Acrobat, so it most likely continues with the tradition of adding useful features and maintaining backwards compatibility and ease of use. When I get around to upgrading, I’ll post my thoughts on this latest version.

Mac OS X startup key combinations

Startup keyboard combinations have been around since the early days of the Mac operating system. Holding down specific keys while pushing the power button offer a plethora of options for troubleshooting when your Mac starts up.

Here are the most useful keyboard startup combinations:

Key/Combo What it does
⌥ (Option) Display all bootable volumes (Startup Manager)
⇧ (Shift) Perform Safe Boot (start up in Safe Mode)
C Start from a bootable disc (DVD, CD)
D Start up in Apple Hardware Test (AHT), if the Install DVD 1 is in the computer
T Start in FireWire target disk mode
N Start from NetBoot server
X Force Mac OS X startup (if non-Mac OS X startup volumes are present)
⌘-V Start in Verbose Mode
⌘-S Start in Single User Mode
⌘-⌥-P-R Reset NVRAM
Mouse button Eject CD/DVD and start up from hard drive

Most of these keyboard combinations will work with any modern Mac, but some models may have variations that work or don’t work.